If you’re like me, figuring out how to succeed in an online academic environment can seem daunting. Figuring out how to harness the power of discussion boards and other collaborative tools could be the most important thing you can do. Your efforts will pay off in your own work but will also enable others in your class to gain a greater understanding of the material.
Discussion boards are meant to take the place of the face-to-face interactions that happen in the classroom, but that is only part of the story. Online discussions can provide an even richer environment than the classroom due to the nature of online learning.
- Discussion boards allow students to collaboratively learn in a unique way. Each student is mining the materials and posting their thoughts on the discussion boards. Perhaps another student turned up something you didn’t see. Taking the time to recognize your fellow student’s work will make them feel great but will also allow you to ask them to elaborate on their thoughts. You’ll help yourself by developing a better understanding of their point and help everyone by bringing the other student’s point into focus for all.
- Not every voice will speak up in the classroom but everyone can contribute online. Most professors require each student to post their thoughts on a topic with discussion flowing from the responses to each post. Make a commitment to yourself to not let anyone’s posts get overlooked. You may not agree or understand where another student is coming from, but that should present itself as a growing opportunity. Even if you think the other student is completely off-base, ask for more of their thoughts using an appropriate questioning strategy, like DeAnna Soth mentions in Engaging in Online Discussions. Drawing other students into discussions may uncover your own blind spots or could help another student see a different side of a question.
- Time is on your side, but only if you choose to use it. I will go on record as saying students who post the last minute before a discussion board is graded are denying their peers the ability to fully learn. Be part of a collaborative learning environment by posting early and often. Set a cadence for yourself to visit the boards and check what’s new. For me, I try to visit twice per day for at least five minutes to try and find some way to kindle a discussion. I post before work in the AM and before bed in the PM. Because students can post any time they want, good discussions may take a day or two to develop. Providing others with your own thoughts and responses will give them a reason to come back every day and contribute themselves.
Take full advantage of the benefits of your coursework here at ASU online. Your fellow students are as much of a resource to you as are your professors and textbooks, but only if you are committed to the collaborative work it takes to fully mine the rich materials available to you. Be the one who sparks thoughtful discussions for the benefit of everyone in your academic community.